Philosopher

The School of Athens, by Raphael, depicting the central figures of Plato and Aristotle, and other ancient philosophers exchanging their knowledge.

A philosopher, in a wide sense, is someone who studies philosophy. The word "philosopher" comes from the Ancient Greek φιλόσοφος (philosophos), which means "lover of wisdom". The introduction of the terms "philosopher" and "philosophy" has been ascribed to the Greek thinker Pythagoras.

A philosopher, in the more narrow and common usage, is any intellectual who has made contributions in one or more current fields of philosophy, such as aesthetics, ethics, epistemology, logic, metaphysics, social theory, and political philosophy. A philosopher may also be one who worked in the humanities or other sciences which have since split from philosophy proper over the centuries, such as the arts, history, economics, sociology, psychology, linguistics, anthropology, theology, and politics. They may relate this knowledge to the discussion of philosophical problems.

In the classical sense, a philosopher is someone who lives according to a way of life, whose focus is upon resolving existential questions about the human condition, and not someone who discourses upon theories or comments upon authors. Typically, these particular brands of philosophy are Hellenistic ones and those who most arduously commit themselves to this lifestyle may be considered philosophers.

In both definitions, philosophers address these questions through critical, systematic and reasoned approaches.

    History

    Ancient Greece and Rome

    While Pythagoras coined the word, the first known elaboration on the topic was conducted by Plato. In his Symposium, he concludes that Love is that which lacks the object it seeks. Therefore, the philosopher is one who seeks wisdom; if he attains wisdom, he would be a sage. Therefore, the philosopher in antiquity was one who lives in the constant pursuit of wisdom, and living in accordance to that wisdom. Disagreements arose as to what living philosophically entailed. These disagreements gave rise to different Hellenistic schools of philosophy. In consequence, the ancient philosopher thought in a tradition. As the ancient world became schism by philosophical debate, the competition lay in living in manner that would transform his whole way of living in the world.

    Transition

    According to the Classicist Pierre Hadot, the modern conception of a philosopher and philosophy developed predominately through three changes:

    The first is the natural inclination of the philosophical mind. Philosophy is a tempting discipline which can easily carry away the individual in analyzing the universe and abstract theory.

    The second is the historical change through the Medieval era. With the rise of Christianity, the philosophical way of life was adopted by its theology. Thus, philosophy was divided between a way of life and the conceptual, logical, physical and metaphysical materials to justify that way of life. Philosophy was then the servant to theology.

    The third is the sociological need with the development of the university. The modern university requires professionals to teach. Maintaining itself requires teaching future professionals to replace the current faculty. Therefore, the discipline degrades into a technical language reserved for specialists, completely eschewing its original conception as a way of life.

    Medieval era

    In the fourth century, the word philosopher began to designate a man or woman who led a monastic life. Gregory of Nyssa, for example, describes how his sister Macrina persuaded their mother to forsake "the distractions of material life" for a life of philosophy.

    Later during the Middle Ages, Persons who engaged with alchemy was called a philosopher - thus, the Philosopher's Stone.

    Early Modern era

    Many philosophers still emerged from the Classical tradition, as saw their philosophy as a way of life. Among the most notable are René Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, Nicolas Malebranche, and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. With the rise of the university, the modern conception of philosophy became more prominent. Many of the esteemed philosophers of the eighteenth century and onward have attended, taught, and developed their works in university. Early examples include: Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

    After these individuals, the Classical conception had all but died with the exceptions of Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche. The last considerable figure in philosophy to not have followed a strict and orthodox academic regime was Ludwig Wittgenstein.

    Modern academia

    In the modern era, those attaining advanced degrees in philosophy often choose to stay in careers within the educational system. According to a 1993 study by the National Research Council (as reported by the American Philosophical Association), 77.1% of the 7,900 holders of a Ph.D. in philosophy who responded were employed in educational institutions (academia). Outside of academia, philosophers may employ their writing and reasoning skills in other careers, such as medicine[vague], bioethics, business, publishing, free-lance writing, media, and law.

    Women in philosophy

    Historically, philosopers have predominantly been male, apart from exceptions such as Hypatia of Alexandria (ca. 370-415 AD), Anne Conway (1631-1679), Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) and Sarah Margaret Fuller (1810-1850), This has become less true in the modern era as more women enter the field, and female philosophers have come to prominence, including Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986), Ayn Rand (1905-1982), Hannah Arendt (1906-1975), Elizabeth Anscombe (1919-2001), Mary Warnock (born 1924), Marilyn McCord Adams (born 1943), Patricia Churchland (born 1943) and Susan Haack (born 1945).[]

    Prizes in philosophy

    Prominent prizes in Philosophy include the Avicenna Prize, the Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy and the Rolf Schock Prizes.

    See also

    References

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